GUEST COMMENTARY: Missouri legislators continue to undo will of the people

Thursday, March 10, 2011 | 12:14 p.m. CST; updated 4:36 p.m. CST, Thursday, March 10, 2011

There’s a theme that has become increasingly prevalent in the Missouri legislature over the past several years.

On several occasions the legislature has ignored the opinion of Missouri voters and voted to repeal laws enacted by the people through the initiative process. The attitude seems to be: “We know better than the voters. We know what you should want. We have more power than you, so we will do what we want.”


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That attitude worries me. That’s not why I was elected to the Missouri House, and I doubt that is what voters believe. Sure, some voters — those who opposed linking the minimum wage to cost of living, or opposed the puppy mill legislation, or opposed campaign finance limits, or were in favor of the conceal and carry measure — might agree with overturning them, but how can any voter argue that it is all right to disregard ballot box decisions in a representative democracy?

I tried to broker a compromise position on Proposition B, the law concerning dog breeders, after it became apparent that the House was going to overturn it. No room for compromise there — they have the votes, and it looks as though legislators will again exercise their will.

Last week with House Bill 61 the House of Representatives voted 92-60 to overturn the state minimum wage law approved in 2006 by 76 percent of Missouri voters. The bill prohibits the state minimum wage from exceeding the federal minimum wage and specifies that every employer must pay each employee who receives compensation in the form of gratuities a wage of $3.63 per hour.

In 1999, Missouri voters defeated a conceal-carry gun measure by almost 50,000 votes statewide. Four years later, the state legislature undid the vote of the people and pushed through right-to-carry legislation. Now, lawmakers continue to push bills that would erase any existing right-to-carry restrictions on college campuses and other public venues.

In 2008, the voters adopted a statewide renewable energy standard by a 2-to-1 majority. Just this session, the majority of the legislature defeated rules that would have given meaning to the voters’ intent.

It is wrong for legislators to blindly follow a political party’s political agenda. When that agenda also opposes the previously tested will of the voters, it is doubly wrong.

Chris Kelly represents the 24th District, southern Boone County, in the Missouri House of Representatives.

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Shelley Powers March 10, 2011 | 12:50 p.m.

Representative Kelly, as the senate just overrode the will of the people you may be right: it doesn't matter if each individual's district voted for Proposition B, they're going to vote whatever they want. Money talks.

I haven't agreed with you on your statements about Proposition B, but wanted to say I agree with what you're saying here: it's wrong of the legislators to blindly follow a political agenda against the wishes of the voters. Not just on Prop B, but on all the laws that were overturned or ripped apart this session.

The message we've received is that we voters don't matter.

Well, I guess we'll see when we meet over the ballot box.

(Report Comment)
Marina Shane March 10, 2011 | 1:34 p.m.

I agree with Shelley Powers. After listening online to the Senate this week, I am disgusted that our legislators show such outright disregard to the voters in their districts.
I would like to say thank you to Senator Justus for trying to remind her fellow Senators why & who they serve. Her speech was passionate & heartfelt. Too bad our legislators cannot follow her lead & respect their constitiuents.

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble March 10, 2011 | 1:34 p.m.

Well said, Representative Kelly. This is an increasingly concerning issue. What we're seeing is an "activist legislature" that is not only pushing specific agendas, but doing so directly against the stated will of the people.

Those who have voted and are continuing to vote for the people driving the overturning of voted-in bills should pause to consider that they are supporting the undermining of democratic rights. If you think the means justify the ends, would you feel the same if those means were turned on you?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 10, 2011 | 2:17 p.m.

Marina, is this the same Senator Jolie Justus that is trying to make it harder for Missouri citizens to propose initiative petitions? The irony is delicious, now where's my bread.

(Report Comment)
Terry Ward March 10, 2011 | 3:00 p.m.

Everything has consequences.

(Report Comment)
Shelley Powers March 10, 2011 | 3:23 p.m.

John Schultz, I agree with Senator Justus on everything...but this.

I know this bill was targeted more at wealthy people who have taken up citizen initiatives as a hobby, but this change would make it harder for grass roots organizations, too. I just won't accept any change that makes it harder for grass roots organizations to get something on the ballot.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley March 10, 2011 | 3:26 p.m.

I think sometimes it is important to consider that the public (the voters) can be manipulated.

I see nothing wrong with people in government taking a stand when they feel that a vote was unfair because the public (the voters) may have been manipulated.

Probably not a popular stance. But sometimes people of character take unpopular stances in doing what they believe to be right.

This is just another circumstance where there just may not be any clear answers at all....

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Tony Black March 10, 2011 | 4:44 p.m.

I whole heartedly agree, Mr. Kelly. Why is it that we aren't hearing of the "repeal the healthcare" bill that voters passed. Were they not wrong then? If the people voted on it, they should have to vote to undo it. Not just random congressmen doing what they want, and others blindly following because your party wrote it.

On a side not, john schultz, is your only purpose on here to ridicule and harass people? I don't remember having ever seen a positive comment from you.

(Report Comment)
Tony Black March 10, 2011 | 4:51 p.m.

Ricky- And the congress can't be manipulated? Or do you just consider them bought and paid for? Until the money is out of politics, the people will get taken.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 10, 2011 | 5:24 p.m.

Tony, I don't comment here to please you, but I would be happy to do so if you want to pay a comment retainer. If you think my comment about Senator Justus was ridiculing or harrasing, you must have lived a sheltered childhood.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley March 10, 2011 | 6:44 p.m.

Tony Black March 10, 2011 | 4:51 p.m. "Ricky- And the congress can't be manipulated? Or do you just consider them bought and paid for? Until the money is out of politics, the people will get taken."

Ahh, a justification defense for manipulating the public (the voters). It is the old "well they do it so we can do it too defense"..... LOL.

Nicely played, Tony. ;o)

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Tony Robertson March 10, 2011 | 8:21 p.m.

My 8th grade teacher once told us, "majorities are not always right." Examples he gave included the American Revolution, and civil rights movements of the 50s/60s. To state that, is not to advocate for some sort of undemocratic, minority rule. It is merely to state what should be obvious to any student of politics, and history.

Rep Kelly mentions conceal-carry - I don't recall the total votes cast, but a 50K margin is not typically a whopping landslide in MO elections. I remember what the opponents said - MO would become the wild, wild west. Which would explain why Rep Kelly and I were jumped by the James Gang the other day and had our horses stolen at revolver-point. Did it turn out that the majority was right? It does not appear so.

There is nothing wrong, deceitful, or unconstitutional about our elected representatives doing their jobs. I'd feel that way if this were done with conceal-carry, the gay marriage ban, or the Obamacare issue, as well as Prop B. I voted against the majority on all these ballot issues. Then again, maybe I am just getting contrarian as I get older.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Dick March 10, 2011 | 8:24 p.m.

As much as I hate Prop B, I have to agree with Representative Kelly about this trend in Missouri. The preamble of the United States Constitution begins with, "We the people...." This trend of reversing or altering the votes of the people is wrong. The will of the people has been heard. The legislature is in the wrong to think they should have the authority to alter that will. I think we need to pass an amendment that says the legislature of the State of Missouri cannot tamper with an amendment voted into existence by the people.

(Report Comment)
Tony Black March 11, 2011 | 4:47 p.m.

Ricky, you didn't answer. Just poked fun. Don't you agree that congressmen can be manipulated? And how is that fair to the voting public?

As for concealed-carry, shootings still happen every day, and the majority of the shooters don't have a permit. Looks like both sides were wrong on that one.

(Report Comment)

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